Archive for February, 2012

I am very excited about writing this article as it has enhanced my coaching philosophy and approach ten fold.  I will try to explain the process and the reasoning as I go.

This evening  (Monday 20th Feb 2012) I took the protoype Response System to my coaching to see what the reaction (ha) would be to the system from a player perspective and also to see how my coaching would / could alter.

I set the system up for a 20 second work period, set up a square about 2×2 metres and explained that the light would come on and that they (the player) are to move to the corresponding dot.  Then they were to look for the next light and move to that dot and onward.  I also used the other features to stimulate, engage and challenge the players.

The first thing I noticed was that the players movement was really stretched by this implied reactive pressure.  The intensity level was through the roof and the enjoyment was great to see and they applied themselves really well to solving the movement puzzles presented by the system.

I trained 4 players in 3 different sessions and the differences between them were very interesting.

Physical competency played a part in the measured output of the players.  It was evident that from an anatomical / functional point of view that better posture and movement capability in all planes resulted in better scores.  I think this is quite accepted but probably missing from many coaching sessions, particularly sport specific coaching sessions (I am working on a series of articles to address this).

Most sports require some reaction to a stimulus and then to move and execute some action.  This reaction to the stimulus is of interest.  In most, “reaction” trainers that I have seen there is no requirement to move from position A to position B.  In this case, the reaction trainer, for me, has been a difficult concept.  With Response however, there is a requirement to move and this requirement can be as big or as small as desired.

The pressured style of movement that was observed suggested that the message from the reaction to the muscle groups was delayed and/or confused.  Interestingly, the players who could play tennis at higher tempos and more consistently were observed to move more fluidly in response to lights changing.   Over the part of the session I used the Response, I altered drill patterns and distances, exercises, the position of the lights (moved the system to the other end of the court) and created movement puzzles for the players.  This seemed to be very engaging and the work rate was fantastic.   Improvements were made with some confusions within the drills popping in and movement mistakes being made.

This provoked my thought process to consider the possibility that players thoughts were clouded when performing the sport and the focus was not on simply playing.  The idea of working with the subconscious is a concept that I was recently presented at Anatomy in Motions level 3 (Gary Ward).   Tennis is a busy sport and there is all manner of possible things players can be thinking about when performing drills, points etc that may have either effect on their outcome, i.e. positive/negative.    Thoughts associated with thing like where they are hitting, how they are hitting, does the ball have spin, oh no I missed etc.

When players observed a new light they automatically performed a split step and this was very prominent during the activities with response. However, when playing/drilling in tennis this step is sometimes missing,  maybe due to drifts in focus, time delays in the stimulus, relief after sending the ball back.  They likened a new light to the contact point of the opponent  and decided that they would shout the word “GO” as loud as possible in their head as they saw/heard the contact. The aim of this was to fill their head with the word and it’s noise thus impeding other thoughts to enter their mind.

The impact of this was that the movement and court coverage was drastically improved and I was able to really pressure them with the feeding.  Taking it a step further, I wanted to reduce the thoughts whilst hitting so we chose words such as “Bang” “hit” linked with breathing out through their own contact.  The words were again shouted to fill their head and when I asked what it was like, they said that the words took as long as the breathing out, BaaannnGG for example.  The aim of this was to allow the body to just do as it knows best.

Results again were good and the players had a really positive response to the work. We had stronger strokes, higher rally tempo, increased consistency not to mention more fun.

Conclusions

There is a place for reaction training and its impact and linkage to coaching and performance is great

Reaction is one thing but body function is a limiting factor where required to move and execute.  This means that, as a prerequisite or in conjunction with, there must be attention to the body requirements (in 3D).

Using stimulus as focus points, allows clearer thought and the body to simply do as it knows best.  It almost simplifies the messages from the brain to the body to more like “red light – body go” as opposed to ” red light – panic – pull levers – wait not that one – what about this one – ok that will do – come on – made it – dam it there’s another one”

It allows the players to just do and correct (attacking the subconscious effectively).

The Response is a great tool to engage players, make training useful and linked to the sport, provide significant challenge and aid in making performance related improvements.

It was a lot of FUN!

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Hi again,

Ok so this might be a little different but then again it might just be blatantly obvious.

I am sure we have all heard, whatever your sport that there is a technical requirement in terms of execution of an action.  I know there is in tennis and that it is something that is prominent in many tennis sessions.  Personally I believe in functional technique on the tennis court as this allows a player to explore tactical options and execute theses tactics to a high level.  I also believe that technique is redundant in isolation and that there must be a desired tactical outcome that provides context for the technique.  I also believe that this extends to movement and footwork and all round physical attributes.

The thing is that there are degrees of tactical outcome that is available as a player develops their skills and understanding.  Take for example the simple tactical of moving your opponent. One can place the ball to move the opponent using simple “bunting” technique where the ball goes in the intended direction but the technique does not affect the ball in terms of spin etc and as a result applies small pressure to the opponent.  The same tactic can be executed with vicious spin, pace etc utilising angles that will apply maximum pressure to the opponent. In addition there are all the degrees of execution in between.

All the other factors (physical, technical, mental) limit the execution of the tactic so the coach must firstly show what the final result will look like and start the player on the road to reaching it.   In this post we are concerned with technique.

Many coaches have differing views on this and also coaches from a physical background also have input into developing athletes/players.  There is a view that a player must develop the technical skills (sports specific ) early and there is the alternative view in that fundamental movement skills should be the emphasis.

Here is my thought – isn’t technical development movement skill?

to elaborate take the “shape” of a ground stroke.  A player must learn to coordinate the swing path and the kinetic chain to produce the most efficient stroke.  Moving an object in this motion such as a football will educate the body in the desired execution.  Allowing players to hop, squat, rotate etc will also stimulate the appropriate sequences that will be required to execute the strokes.  Holding the racket and re producing the strokes also helps as does movements such as arm sprials and 3D stepping/balancing exercises.   In addition there must be some receiving/sending and as a tennis coach wanting tennis players I will use throwing and catching over the net along with drop feeds to be hit progressing to feeding over the net and rallying.  All this can occur within a single session and that over the a period of weeks players can develop movement skills and tennis technique which in essence is simply the moving of the body in a set way.  Any human is capable of moving the racket in the “right” way.

Once the player has developed the basics and the coach is refining and introducing more complexity one should not forget that the movement skills will really help in the learning of new skills and dealing with greater complexities.  Taking a 360 approach, including body motions, footwork, movement and racket skills (in context) players will become rounded in competency.

Good luck to all..

 

Hi All,

Recently I read our club newsletter and in the staff profiles it said that I was the “Performance” coach.  As nice as that is I started to think about the wording and the message that this sends to the members, in particular the juniors.  In addition to this a few coach friends had mentioned that they prefer the “development” coaching.

I became confused (this is not difficult for me).  The words just don’t make sense and I will begin to explain why.

“Performance” tennis seems to refer to the “talented” ones or those that show a greater degree of competence at a certain age or stage.  “Development” seems to be considering everyone who does not fall into the “performance” category.   This infers that there is a transition a player can make from development to performance tennis?

Having done some thinking on this development can be linked with improvement.  This makes it independent of standard or skill competency.  Simply every time a player is on court with a coach the aim is to develop or improve as a tennis player.  Performance coaching is a redundant term as the goal of the coaching sessions is still to develop and improve the players tennis.    After all a coach is aiming to develop the player to improve the performance within a match.  This is the case always.  If not then there is a question to be asked as to what the point of coaching is.

Some issues that come up in my own head is that not everyone is at tennis coaching to try to become number 1 in the world and of course the vast majority won’t realise this but that does not take away the fact that they all have the right to learn to play tennis.  Develop their skills to improve their performance when they play the game.

There will be degrees of coaches who specialise in certain areas but in the centre I work in every player is in development (as primarily U10) even those reaching national standards.  Every person who enters the centre is in the same boat of wanting to play tennis and therefore they have the right to be taught and developed.

Coaches, whatever the qualification, experience etc should all be aware that they can teach people to play tennis and play tennis well.  Whether the player is once a week  or 4 times a week a player must be taught as this will allow the player to realise success.  Success will breed enjoyment and enthusiasm.  Circumstances in terms of money and parental interest play a part in the whole rate of development discussion but still foundations can be implemented to future proof the players.

I see myself as a both performance/development as my primary goal is to enable everyone who steps on my court to learn and improve at tennis which means developing technique, tactics, physical capabilities and a mind set to play the game.  the players I work with are good but that is because they have been taught and they have learnt and worked hard to improve.

I am a coach with the goal of producing tennis players (whatever that means).